The global air-conditioning market in 2021: focus on Africa

126 million room air conditioners were sold in 2021 worldwide (+3% compared to 2020). The African market has seen a similar increase, but many of the units sold still have low energy efficiency and use obsolete refrigerants. 

According to JARN estimates (1), the global room air conditioner market in 2021 grew up by 3.0% over 2020 to 126.1 million units.  


The market growth in the US and even the Americas as a whole has been particularly significant, with the Latin American market growing by more than 10%. The very strong growth of the Indian market (+23%) should also be noted. 


The 6 biggest markets in terms of demand were in 2021 (compared to 2020): 



2021 demand (million units) 

Growth (2022 vs 2021) 




United States 



South-East Asia 






Latin America 







The main trends observed are as follows: 

  • Inverter penetration has increased. The proportion of inverter air conditioners is above 60% in all major Asian markets except India (45%), and even reaches 90-100% in Singapore and Japan. However, this proportion is still very low in the US, excluding the ductless split and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems supplied by Asian manufacturers. One of the factors hindering the uptake of inverter technologies is the high initial cost, which today is roughly 25 to 30% higher; however, this barrier has gradually been lowered as Japanese and other Asian compressor suppliers have reduced their costs through technological innovations. 
  • R32 penetration rate in 2021 has reached over 70%. This rate is particularly high in Japan. South-East Asia, Australia, India and China have also accelerated their shift to R32. Latin American countries such as Brazil and Chile are actively preparing to switch to R32. However, the Middle East and Africa have not shifted to R32.  
    R290 (propane) is widely used in portable-type air conditioners. However, it is not used for split-type room air conditioners, exceptfor a small amount sold in China and India. 


Focus on the African market


The African room air conditioner market (2) experienced a 3.1% growth in 2021 with sales reaching 3.44 million units. With the exception of Angola and Lybia, all other markets grew. 

The largest market in Africa is Egypt (almost 1 million units sold), followed by Nigeria, Algeria and South-Africa. 


Initially, R22 models were the most common in Africa, but South-Africa and Algeria have already shifted to R410A. In spring 2018, Daikin launched R32 split-type room air conditioners in the African market. However, no other major brand has so far followed suit. 


A recent report by CLASP and IGSD finds that about 35% of the room air conditioners sold in Africa have energy efficiency ratings of less than 3.0W/W and use obsolete R22 and R410A refrigerants scheduled for phase-out and phase down respectively under the Montreal Protocol (see IGSD has partnered with the Ghana Energy Commission to apply legal tools consistent with international trade law to stop the environmental dumping of new and used, obsolete and inefficient appliances. 



(1) JARN Magazine January 2022 Special Issue 

(2) JARN Magazine January 2022 Regular Issue